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80 Microcomputing Magazine

80 Microcomputing, also known as 80 Micro, was the most famous of the TRS-80 magazines and the best remembered. It was the first of the platform-specific computer magazines to become very popular, creating a model that many other magazines followed. Harry McCracken, former editor-in-chief of PC World, described PC World as "essentially an 80 Micro clone that happened to be about Windows, not TRS-80’s."

80 Microcomputing published for 101 issues from January 1980 to June 1988, plus one special anniversary issue in 1983. With the combined June/July 1982 issue, 80 Microcomputing was renamed to 80 Micro and the cover date was advanced one month.

The magazine was very successful and spawned:

  • a spinoff magazine for the Color Computer (Hot Coco)
  • a spinoff magazine for MS-DOS (PC Resource)
  • a ten-volume series of books (The Encyclopedia of the TRS-80)
  • a book of extra material (The Rest of 80)
  • a book of reviews (80 Micro’s Review Guide)
  • a monthly collection of programs supplied on tape and disk (LOAD-80)
  • Origins

80 Microcomputing was created by Wayne Green, the founder of many magazines including 73 and Kilobaud Microcomputing (of which 80 Microcomputing was a spinoff). Wayne Green envisioned 80 Microcomputing as being about the readers and included this appeal in the first issue under the heading "You are the Author": All of my magazines have one thing in common—they are written entirely by the readers, you. If you buy something which should be written about, write about it. If you get some software which is great, write about it. If it is awful, say so. Try to think of 80 Microcomputing as more of an enormous and informal club newsletter than a pontificating magazine."

This formula seemed to work. The magazine took off and soon each issue was packed with articles, reviews, and columns, most written by the readers. At its height in 1982, 80 Microcomputing was the third largest magazine in the country. Only Vogue and BYTE were larger. The largest regular issue published was November 1982 at 518 pages. The special Anniversary issue published a few months later was even larger at 594 pages. Since the ratio of editorial pages to advertising pages remained roughly equal, these issues contained around 250 pages of advertising. This abundance of advertising demonstrated the vibrancy of the TRS-80 market and many of those advertisements remain interesting today.

On May 22, 1983, Wayne Green signed an agreement to sell 80 Micro and most of his other magazines to CW Communications, the publishers of computer magazines such as Computerworld, InfoWorld, and PC World. The November 1983 issue was the first published by CW Communications and Wayne Green’s “Remarks” column disappeared from the magazine.

The sale to CW Communications marked a change in focus for 80 Micro. The magazine gradually moved away from articles and columns written by readers in favor of those written by staff writers. User submitted reviews were no longer accepted. One of the immediate changes was a sharp increase in advertising rates. This led to many smaller companies reducing or cancelling their advertisements. Partly as a result, the size of 80 Micro shrank in half within a year.

80 Microcomputing originally focused only on the original TRS-80 (the Model I), but expanded its coverage to include additional Radio Shack computer models as they were introduced. In all, the magazine covered (although not all at the same time) the Model I/III/4, Model 100, Color Computer 1/2, Model II/12/16, Model 2000, and the Tandy MS-DOS computers such as the Model 1000 series.

Starting in August 1983, the Color Computer content was moved to the recently spun off Hot Coco magazine. Coverage of the Model II/12/16 quietly disappeared at about the same time. After Hot Coco stopped publishing with the February 1986 issue, some of the Color Computer features moved to 80 Micro in the March 1986 issue. Those features remained until December of the same year.

In November 1987, it was announced that 80 Micro would cease coverage of TRS-80 computers with the December 1987 issue. Beginning with the January 1988 issue, the magazine would focus exclusively on the Tandy MS-DOS computers. There were a number of reasons given for the decision, but many loyal readers (some of whom had been subscribers from the first issue) complained of feeling as though they were being discarded. The end of the TRS-80 coverage in 80 Micro led directly to the creation of three other TRS-80 publications: TRSTimes, Computer News 80, and TRSLINK.

With no more TRS-80 coverage in 80 Micro, many TRS-80 companies stopped advertising. Without MS-DOS companies to replace them, the magazine soon dropped by 40 pages. With declining subscriber numbers, diminished advertising, and very narrow focus, it was sad but no surprise when 80 Micro published its final issue in June 1988. That final issue was only 80 pages long.

This history of 80 Microcomputing was written by Matthew Reed for TRS-80.org.

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